Jesus reminded the devil of the requirement for maintaining the kingdom grant: obedience. Prosperity is not a matter of power; it is a matter of covenantal obedience. His power over the stones was unquestioned. The devil did not suggest otherwise. In fact, the temptation rested on the presupposition that Jesus possessed such power. The nature of this temptation was an appeal to power. This was one more example of the power religion vs. the dominion religion. Jesus refused to invoke power rather than ethics.
Almost inevitably in human history, the getting of power leads to the abuse of it. We don’t need to go to the conventional text-books of history to discover that: it’s in the Bible. Before David became king of Israel, he essentially had charge of hundreds of armed men.
On one occasion when a deputation from him to a wealthy landowner seeking assistance was offensively rejected, he very nearly abused his power in vengeance (see I Samuel 25). The fact was he had military power, and only the intervention of a shrewd and wise woman in the person of Abigail, prevented him from murdering the innocent.
The abuse of power, and even the threat of it, is commonplace in the modern world. Presently, US Presidential candidates are regularly being interviewed. The Republican candidate Ben Carson had this to say recently about his views on defence:
… if we get defense wrong, nothing else matters, because we live in a hostile world. So you’re going to see our military capabilities improve quite substantially… Recognizing that we have a 14 percent decrease in people applying for our volunteer military. That’s going to hurt us badly in the long run.
You’re going to see us beef up our cyber capabilities substantially, you’re going to see us respond to people who attack us in a way that they will never forget.
You’re going to see much more proactive stance towards someone like Putin, you know, we’re going to be much more active throughout the whole Baltic basin area, Eastern Europe, we’re going to reestablish missile defense program, we’re going to have more than one or two armored brigades in that area. We’re gonna stand up to him, every place in the Middle East, we’re not gonna back down.
Ben Carson doesn’t know it, but the Middle East is reeling from the abuse of power by the US, over generations. The last thing it needs is more US meddling and warmongering; more “armored brigades” in the area. The best thing for the US would be to leave the Middle East alone.
Pride of heart in an individual is what leads to the abuse of power. This was Uzziah’s sin, when he foolishly entered the temple and tried to usurp to himself the role of a priest (II Chron.26:16-22). God judged him with leprosy.
There is one thing that can keep a political leader from the abuse of power: the law of God. When God instructed Israel concerning the legitimacy of it choosing a king, He gave specific conditions for this (see Deut.17:14-20). He commanded that when this man became king, he
Shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing the words of this law and these statutes, so that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen… (Deut.17:18-20).
This was the difference shown by Jesus when He was tempted by the devil. The scripture shows (Mat.4:1-11) that His first recourse was the law of God. In response to temptation, He quoted from Deuteronomy.
Power never corrupted anyone. Power merely reveals what’s in people. When corrupt people are given power, they very quickly manifest their true nature.
If a leader really wants to do people no harm, his first recourse should be the law of God. Why? Because it will be a restraining influence. It will confront any tendencies he has to think too highly of himself. The Bible promises,
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers (Ps.1:1-3).
Consider Joseph. He’d already shown he’d be faithful to God under pressure, and he never made expansive claims of his own abilities. When he was brought before Pharoah, who had heard he could interpret dreams, he immediately acknowledged, “…It is not in me; God will give Pharoah a favorable answer” (Gen.41:16).
Joseph knew he didn’t personally have the solutions to Pharoah’s difficulties. He was merely a communicator of God’s truth to Pharoah, which is just what every believer ought to be. He had to pass on the facts of life as defined by God. As a result, Pharoah promoted him.
You really want to serve God from political office? There’s nothing wrong with that. But there will be a lot wrong with that, if you don’t read the law of God, every day of your life.
Gary North, “Priorities and Dominion,” 2000, ch.1.